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METALS-Copper falls as weak Chinese data adds to slack demand

Kitco News

(Updates prices) LONDON, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Copper prices fell on Wednesday as weak Chinese economic data added to signs of low demand and ample supply, taking the heat out of a recent rally.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 1.2% at $8,272.50 a tonne at 1707 GMT.

Prices had surged to a five-month high of $8,600 on Monday - up 15% since the start of November - on hopes that China would abandon its zero-COVID policy and U.S. interest rate rises would slow, lifting economic growth and metals demand.

But new home prices in China fell at their fastest pace in more than seven years in October, according to data on Wednesday that underscored deepening contraction in the construction sector and followed weak manufacturing data on Tuesday.

China is by far the biggest metals consumer and COVID-19 cases are rising there, raising fears of wider lockdowns that would hamper economic activity.

Meanwhile, China's yuan weakened against the dollar, making dollar-priced metals costlier for local buyers. Chinese copper import premiums have tumbled to $102.50 a tonne from $144.50 last week, suggesting lower demand for overseas metal.

Supply also suddenly looks ample on the LME, where quickly delivered cash copper has flipped from a premium of more than $100 versus the metal for delivery in three months to a discount of more than $30. Copper is stuck between bears, who see a slack market, and bulls looking ahead to stronger demand as China lifts its COVID controls, said Gianclaudio Torlizzi, a partner at consultancy company T-Commodity.

"We need to wait for some weeks before the market takes a clear direction," he said. "In my view, that direction will be higher."

Potentially helping copper is an upcoming strike announced by workers on Tuesday at Chile's Escondida, the world's largest copper mine. LME nickel fell 9.1% to $27,500, partially reversing a barnstorming rally in the last two weeks.

Aluminium was down 1.1% at $2,409 a tonne, zinc slipped 1.7% to $3,059, lead was down 2.3% at $2,168 and tin fell 0.4% to $23,305. (Reporting by Peter Hobson Additional reporting by Siyi Liu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Paul Simao and Alexander Smith)

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